When Different Religious Views Cause Conflict in Child Custody Cases

Religious differences are a common cause of disputes in child custody. As the frequency of marriage between people of different religions is rapidly increasing, so are situations where parents disagree on the religious upbringing of their child, especially during a divorce or a suit affecting the parent-child relationship. If you are in this boat, you may be wondering what legal options you have.

In most cases religion will not sway a judge in a child custody case. Texas law, like that of most other states, will take religious practice into consideration when parsing out child custody terms, but will only consider decreasing a parent’s custody rights where there is an obvious harm to the child. Where this becomes complicated is in the interpretation of “harm” or “best interest” in a religious upbringing. You may feel like your former spouse’s religious traditions are simply too extreme, but what counts as “harm”?

The seeming lack of options is why it’s important to have a committed lawyer at your side. A lawyer can look at your unique circumstance and factor in every detail for your good and the good of your child. Read on to get the full scope of where child custody and religion intersect.

 Unique Cases Where Religion Can Affect Child Custody 

In essence, a judge will usually be hesitant to restrict a parent’s speech or guidance pertaining to religion because of the 1st Amendment. The 1st Amendment could be brought into play if a parent’s freedom of religion, speech, or other expressions of ideology is bridled by the court. The unique exception to this is where potential harm, physical or emotional, is being done to a child within a religious community.

Issues of physical harm and especially emotional harm may not always be easy to prove, and will vary in complexity from case to case. If proven, or with the ability to substantiate these claims, a Texas court could move in favor of changing child custody arrangements. In cases where abuse isn’t clear, however, courts will generally fall on the “best interest of the child” when examining the custody case.

Defining “the best interest of the child” in your custody case is where you will deeply depend on the guidance of your lawyer. This ostensibly subjective or undefined measurement is where your lawyer may be able to make an argument in your favor. Though religion is not a standard consideration, it could possibly play a part in a judge’s decision in rare cases where a religious practice is deemed not in the best interest of the child. 

Conversely, you as a parent may be afraid that your former spouse will try to use your religion against you in a custody case. Fortunately, Texas laws for both custodial and non-custodial parents protect your right to share information and beliefs with your child. As stated above, only in cases where obvious harm has been caused to your child would courts generally act against you for religious factors.

So where does that leave you?

 Seek Help From A Family Law Attorney 

While religious differences may not be a useful factor in most custody cases, a lawyer can help you anticipate this as a source of conflict, and make you aware of how to proceed. A family law attorney is especially knowledgeable in how to direct you. Don’t go in blind.

If you’re still in the stage of anticipating a divorce, but haven’t begun the process, be sure to go through a preparatory checklist and to speak with your lawyer sooner rather than later. Even if you’re just testing the waters and weighing your options, a smooth-as-possible divorce is better for you AND your child. An experienced lawyer like Kelly J. Capps will be able to advise you on the exact options available to you. To arrange a consultation with Kelly J. Capps of Capps Law Firm, PLLC, please call our Austin office at (512) 338-9800.


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